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Written by Dynamis Ministries | February 23, 2023

People like lists. Whether it’s reading an article on the Internet, listening to a podcast or hearing a speaker at a conference, people give us lists because people like lists. We seem to be captivated by things like The Top 5 Places to Go in…, The Top 10 Reasons to Get… or The Top 7 Ways to… We can turn almost any topic of conversation into a list. So, with this in mind here’s a list to prompt some generosity thinking today: Who are the top 5 most generous people of all time? An unlikely person to show up on this list for most people, belongs in the conversation. It’s Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa is most certainly a highly recognized figure of the past century for her humanitarian work and acts of service. And yes, her work was generous. She lived her whole life as an offering to Jesus, which led her to minister to the sick and poor of Calcutta, India. What started as an act of obedience to simply go to the slums of the city and care for the most unwanted, unloved and uncared for people, ended up producing a life work that included establishing a nursing home, orphanage, leper colony, multiple mobile health clinics and care center for people with HIV/AIDS. Not to mention her many international awards for humanitarian work highlighted by receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa is truly a model of generosity in the truest sense, worthy of anybody’s Top 5.

Despite her global recognition Mother Teresa never set out to be a renowned humanitarian, activist or a leader of generosity. She never intended to be recognized as a saint or a great social worker or a person of compassion. In fact, in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech Mother Teresa humbly said that she and her fellow servants were nothing more than “contemplatives in the heart of the world.” In other words, everything Mother Teresa did and accomplished in her life just happened out of prayer and her devotion to live for Jesus.

Mother Teresa’s amazing legacy of generosity came about as a result of prayer and her willingness to respond accordingly. This highlights an important aspect of prayer that can fuel our own generosity too. Theologian Eugene Peterson refers to prayer as “the middle voice.” It is not an active voice where we are in control, telling God what to do. Neither is it completely passive, allowing God to work outside of our involvement. Rather, the middle voice is joining the work of God and becoming an active participant in his work on earth. It’s in this middle voice of prayer where we become aware of the heart of God and the needs around us and choose to act by participating in his redemptive plan.

If we want to grow in our own generosity, it’s important to remain connected to God in prayer through this same middle voice. Because God’s heart is drawn to the people and places where there is hurt and suffering, the more connected we remain to God, the more he will invite us into those places too, creating opportunities to bring hope and healing, oftentimes through our own generosity. By spending time in the middle voice with God, Mother Teresa was led to make an impact she never would have dreamed possible. Who knows the powerful ways God can use us too if we remain connected to God through prayer and act accordingly!